Here Come the Fall Tour Cancelations


It seemed so simple: all we had to do was get vaccinated and live music would return. We’d go to shows feeling free and easy, jubilant with our fellow formerly cooped up concertgoers, bathing in the power of live music, FINALLY, reveling in the togetherness of it. For months the anticipation has been building as vaccination ramped up and tour announcements rolled out, one after the next, so many it felt overwhelming! An embarrassment of riches. Roaring ’20s, here we come!

Except we’ve fucked it up. The fall is going to be a disaster.

I hope you’re prepared for disappointment, because there are going to be a LOT of cancelations. They’ve already begun.

Vaccination rates are not where they need to be, with only 59% of those 18 years of age and older fully dosed in the U.S. And we are all going to pay the price.

“But I’m vaccinated,” I hear you say. “I’m protected, and if any unvaccinated fools want to risk getting Covid-19 inside a venue, that’s on them!”

And yes, that’s true. You’ll likely be fine. While those who are fully vaccinated can indeed contract Covid-19, all three vaccines are nearly 100% effective at preventing severe cases of the disease requiring hospitalization and death. If unvaccinated folks want to attend shows, it is (mostly) their own risk.

But consider this: all it’s going to take is one member of one band (or their crew) on a tour contracting Covid-19, and the entire tour will come crashing down. Canceled. Caput. Done.

By the time a band member starts showing symptoms, they’ll have been carrying the virus for days already, exposing not just their own band members, but everyone else on the tour. In vans, buses, green rooms, backstage areas, on stage.

We know how the virus spreads after nearly a year and a half of this. And you know bands will be interacting with fans — they won’t be cordoned off in a bubble — selling merch, doing meet and greets, chit-chatting, shit, just being in the same room carries risk. Fans will be bringing Covid-19 into venues.

And so too will band members become infected. And once that happens, it’s over. The entire tour package will have been exposed. No venue is going to want to allow that traveling germ-fest inside its walls, and the tour package will do the right thing and call it off anyway.

And then it’s a mandatory two weeks off. Which means, practically speaking, the entire tour will be off.

Very few bands can afford to stay out on the road not working for that long, burning money on gas, food, crew and accommodations to resume the tour in a completely different part of the country. If you’re Metallica and you can fly home and rest, no biggie… but if you’re a regular road-dog act, you’re screwed.

Let me say it one more time, as clearly as possible, for the cheap seats: if any one single band member gets Covid-19 while on tour, the entire tour will be canceled.

Even more troubling, recent anecdotal experience leads me to believe that vaccination rates among band members in the metal community are not high. The “fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me” streak is strong in this group, and for domestic touring within the U.S. no one is going to be enforcing it (traveling abroad is a different story). Band members are on their own to do the right thing, and the “fuck the government” attitude, coupled with feeling young and healthy with national Covid-19 rates low at the moment, is leading people in this demographic to delay.

What’s more, as we know, you can still get Covid if you’re vaccinated. It’s less likely that you’ll get it, and the symptoms will be much milder, but you can still contract it and pass it along to others. Which is to say that if you’re vaccinated, and you get Covid while on tour, the entire package is still fucked.

All this while Covid cases are again on the rise in the U.S., up 111% in the past 14 days, according to the New York Times. Much of that upswing has been driven by places with low vaccination rates, like Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana and Colorado. But even places with higher vaccination rates are seeing upticks, in part due to the high transmissibility of the Delta variant, currently the most dominant strain. Things won’t get as bad as last winter, that’s certain, but it could be bad enough to shut down events in some places, and if this happens in too many places it will become difficult or impossible to continue with a tour as routed.

This is my plea: band members who are reading this, PLEASE get vaccinated. It’s not worth the risk. Yes, the above scenarios could still play out even if 100% of a tour package is vaccinated, but it’s a whole lot less likely. Don’t make it your fault an entire tour has to come down because you were too selfish to get a shot. At least be able to say “I did everything I could to prevent this.”

Likewise, fans: get fucking vaccinated. The bands can’t do it without you keeping infection rates low in your area. The more areas there are with higher infection rates, the more likely it becomes that tours can’t happen to begin with. And the more likely it becomes that a band member will become infected while on tour.

I feel like I’m screaming into the void. Infection rates are rising just as touring is finally about to kick off en masse; they’re on a collision course and it’s not going to be pretty, and there’s little I or anyone can say or do to prevent it. We’ve been doing so well, so patient, and the moment is finally here! We still have time to turn it around, but the window is closing.

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